It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was.
Angel Pat Northey and Clay Henderson
Last month, former Volusia County Council members Pat Northey and Clay Henderson co-authored an excellent piece for The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s weekly Your Turn column detailing the steps required for the successful and transparent continuation of the Volusia ECHO and Volusia Forever programs.
On election day, both tax supported initiatives were renewed by over 70% of voters, signaling a clear mandate for increased focus on the protection of sensitive environmental areas while enhancing cultural, historic, and outdoor recreation opportunities for Volusia County residents.
Rather than shrink into the woodwork following their elective service, both Northey and Henderson have worked tirelessly to contribute to the public good outside the political confines of the council chamber.
Clay Henderson has given the bulk of his life to preserving Florida’s threatened ecology.
According to his bio, during his storied career, Mr. Henderson “…co-authored most of the natural resource protection provisions in the Florida Constitution including Amendment 1, the largest voter approved conservation funding initiative in our nation’s history, and creation of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”
An environmental lawyer by trade, before his retirement, Mr. Henderson served as the Executive Director for Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience.
It’s no secret that Pat Northey and I rarely agree on anything political – but she is infinitely smarter than I am – so I listen to what she has to say.
That’s how I learn.
During an outstanding political career which spanned some 20-years – including two stints as Volusia County Council Chair – Ms. Northey served in a variety of leadership positions in various civic and environmental organizations, including service on the St. John’s River Alliance executive board.
The thing I admire most about Ms. Northey is her ability to work across political ideology or personal motivations – and use accountability to build trust and consensus on the issues that matter to our collective future.
From her continuing advocacy for multiuse trails to her active support for ECHO and Forever, Ms. Northey continues to be an incredibly relevant voice in Volusia County issues through her frequent contributions to regional discussions both in print and on radio public affairs programs.
In short, Pat Northey gets things done – and she does it without the sharp elbows and vapid “look at me” self-promotion that has become the modus operandi of many elected officials.
In their excellent piece, Northey and Henderson had some strong recommendations for Volusia County government:
“…commit again to full transparency, an annual audit, and listening sessions with the public. The new County Council should appoint an oversight committee to include members with experience in ecology, water quality, real estate and planning, and people otherwise experienced with and committed to the Volusia Forever program. It will be up to them to recommend both final procedures and properties to acquire. These programs are so important that they should be housed in the County Manager’s office.
I wholeheartedly agree.
The creation of a citizen oversight board – not a typical Volusia County political insulation committee composed of sycophantic toadies and political insiders with a profit motive – and “listening sessions” (you know, where policymakers actually consider their constituents input?) is critical to regaining the public’s trust and alleviating the lingering questions surrounding previous management of the programs.
In addition, Northey and Henderson suggest meaningful partnerships with established environmental organizations to develop programmatic best practices for evaluating and ranking properties for potential purchase – and the use of “conservation easements” to limit overdevelopment – using independent appraisers to ensure offers do not exceed the appraised value.
“The county should be sensitive to concerns about transparency. All projects for funding should be reviewed by the ECHO Oversight Committee prior to approval by the County Council. All projects should be considered or approved by the County Council only after they are fully documented with notice to the public and placed on the regular agenda. We also support the plan to review match requirements for small projects that can have a big community impact.”
Imagine an era where we are no longer subject to public policy by ambush?
A time of honesty and openness, when important decisions that impact our lives and livelihoods are placed on a public agenda, with all supporting documentation necessary for a layman to understand the intricacies, and with sufficient time for public input.
The older I get, the more concerned I become about leaving a little greenspace, clean water, and outdoor recreation opportunities for my grandchildren to enjoy – not a legacy of half-empty strip centers, guacamole rivers, asphalt parking lots, and godawful “theme” communities blanketing our aquifer recharge areas and destroying sensitive wildlife habitat.
I agree with Ms. Northey and Mr. Henderson – the enthusiastic renewal of Forever and ECHO is well worth celebrating.
However, these important programs can only be successful if proper safeguards are put in place that ensure their focus remains true.
Asshole Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington
Why is Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington such a sore winner?
As the majority of the community’s voters inconceivably returned Mr. Partington to the dais of power; in victory, he always finds a way to piss-off his supporters and detractors alike.
By acting like a king-hell asshole toward anyone who bucks the entrenched “pro-development” system, that’s how. . .
For instance, two-years ago, on election night 2018, our tone-deaf Mayor and several of his fellow commissioners (each of whom were handily reelected last month), posed for a picture during their collective victory party on the dance floor of the Rockin’ Ranch – epitomizing the back-slappin’ good ol’ boy network they represent – holding a filthy push broom to signify their unanimous “clean sweep.”
To add insult to injury, the most vocal of the growth at all cost bunch – Commissioner Troy Kent – who long-ago became the mouthpiece and chief apologist for speculative developers that feed freely here – was costumed, cap-a-pie, in a ten-gallon cowboy hat and western boots – personifying the chummy Old South crony politics many of us who lived it have worked hard to escape.
No word where our perpetual politicians held their celebratory hootenanny this year.
Clearly, Ormond Beach voters have a short memory. . .
Now, following yet another Big Win, Mayor Partington issued a weird editorial in the Ormond Beach Observer – openly shitting on the efforts of those working hard to protect what’s left of Ormond’s historic “Loop” – and belittling the serious concerns of some 61,000 area residents who signed a petition in support of preserving the scenic drive.
In his strange diatribe, Mayor Partington wrote, in part:
“Save Ferris” is the mantra that shows up everywhere in the movie “Ferris Bueller‘s Day Off.” You see it displayed on the scoreboard at the ball field, sprawled across the town’s water tower, and written on a student’s notebook at the end of the movie. It’s a tilted nod to just how much Ferris means to the fictional town of Shermer. I see the same ideals showcased in the “Save the Loop” mantra that has been seen online again recently. It was included in a misleading post that suggests somehow the loop is set to be bulldozed but the heart behind it is the same feeling that the town of Shermer shows for Ferris. They innocently want to “Save Ferris,” who as moviegoers, we all know is in no real danger or in need of saving, just because they are good people with good hearts from a small town who want to support a good thing. Similarly, Ormond Beach wants to “Save the Loop” because of course we want to protect our Loop, but just like in the movie the intent is wonderful but, like Ferris, it’s not really in danger.”
Look, nobody consistently spews more pure gibberish than me – but I have no idea what Mayor Partington is trying to say. . .
I think Hizzoner should understand that this is not some fictitious cinematic burb, but a community of nearly 40,000 living, breathing residents, who – despite their odd propensity for believing glossy mailers and the campaign promises of perennial politicians – are beginning to feel the very real threat of overdevelopment to the north, south, and west.
I know. I’m one of them. . .
While Mayor Partington would have us believe that The Loop is “not really in danger,” it doesn’t take an environmental engineer to see the massive development that continues its malignant creep along large sections of the threatened byway – including retention ponds, clear-cutting, homes just beyond a thin veneer of trees, access roads adding to traffic, etc. – all changing the topography of the land and destroying the areas natural beauty.
Earlier this month, those intrepid environmentalists Suzanne Scheiber and Natalie Pilipczak made a clearly unwanted presentation to the Ormond Beach City Commission, suggesting public funds be allocated for the purchase of 76 lots at the Plantation Oaks subdivision to provide a protective buffer.
Unfortunately, their noble efforts at an alternative solution fell on deaf ears.
For their trouble, Mayor Partington verbally backhanded Scheiber and Pilipczak, opining that even the mere suggestion The Loop “needs saving” somehow denigrates the work of other volunteer organizations (?).
Of course, that is before he attempted to sidestep responsibility by suggesting a pass-the-buck strategy for preserving the historic canopied lane, claiming it is Volusia County’s responsibility – and after he spoke out in favor of annexing Plantation Oaks into Ormond Beach in September while denigrating county services. . .
“I think it’ll be beneficial for those residents to be a part of the city and enjoy, not only police and fire, but our public works and leisure services,” Partington said. “All those services the city provides at a better level than what the county does.”
Except protecting what is left of our scenic greenspace, I guess.
As former Ormond Beach Commission Candidate Tim Grigsby recently said in a social media post on the topic, “The mayor is trying to pull the wool over our eyes. The Loop is not saved, and the developers keep winning, therefore we must keep fighting harder than ever.”
Angel City of Holly Hill
In my view, innovation deserves recognition – especially in government – where advanced thinking, visionary projects and state-of-the-art methods come around about as often as the Comet Kohoutek.
Fortunately, there is one small community in our area that is setting a high bar for how public places and spaces are planned, designed, built, used, and maintained.
This week, Holly Hill Mayor Chris Via proudly announced that in addition to beautiful Sunrise Park being nominated for the “Outstanding Sustainability Initiative Award” by the Florida Planning and Zoning Association – the community is now the recipient of the “Outstanding Public/Private Partnership Award” for Pictona at Holly Hill!
This prestigious award is granted by the FPZA for the most effective collaboration between the public and private sector in the field of planning or development – and recognizes the incredible collaboration between the City of Holly Hill and visionary private investors to enhance our collective quality of life here on the Fun Coast.
In my view, the pickleball courts and fitness complex is one of the most electrifying additions to the Halifax area in decades – and we owe a debt of gratitude to area residents Rainer and Julie Martens, who made a multi-million-dollar personal investment to see the project become a reality.
This is an outstanding example of what a true public/private partnership should be, as the Martens’ investment was supported with a $1.2 million contribution from the City of Holly Hill – bolstered by a $400,000 ECHO grant from Volusia County and $50,000 in sponsorships and private donations.
Congratulations to the wonderful citizens, staff, and officials of the City of Holly Hill for this well-deserved recognition!
Quote of the Week
“In the middle of the bargaining sessions between Volusia United Educators (VUE) and the School Board, as the union is fighting to raise veteran teacher salaries, as the district’s CFO Debra Muller claims they’re flat broke, they find a treasure chest with $50,000 for the acting superintendent.
There seems to be, as VUE president Elizabeth Albert called it, a “cadre of elites who are entitled to competitive salaries.”
Teaching is not about the money. If it was, we would all pick different careers. But money tells a story, too. While the acting superintendent gets $50,000, teachers are getting a $500 stipend for hybrid-teaching during the pandemic. The district is telling a juicy story: the acting superintendent is doing the work of 100 teachers. She must be a goddess. Is this one of those supernatural stories?”
— Stefano Cagnato, DeLand, a teacher at T. Dewitt Taylor Middle-High School, writing in the Guest Column section of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The age-old story: We’re out of money,” Sunday, November 29, 2020
And Another Thing!
The Christmas Season is a time of great joy.
A time of spiritual reflection, and a renewed willingness to give of ourselves, and see that others receive a share of the bountiful gifts we have been blessed with in keeping with the spiritual teaching:
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Giving material gifts or monetary donations to assist the lives of others is important – but when we give of our time and talents – is when we are truly at our best.
There are many unmet needs in our community, some of which shine brightest during this time of year, and leave us wondering how we can help bring comfort to those in need – a sense of compassion that renews our belief that all life is precious and worthy of our efforts to improve it.
Recently, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post announced a need for volunteers to make a difference in the lives of defenseless animals:
“Are you an animal lover looking to volunteer your time and serve your community?
Volusia County Animal Services has what you’re looking for!
Animal Services is seeking volunteers to assist with a variety of functions – everything from lending a hand in the animal clinic and at public events to helping at pet shelters during declared emergencies to administrative services, as well as the return to field program for community cats.
Duties run the gamut, so don’t be afraid to reach out and learn more. Give them a call at 386-248-1790!”
If you can help, I hope you will consider volunteering for this compassionate effort to provide for the needs of homeless, sick, and abused animals in our community.
It’s God’s work.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!